The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated, 2019

The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated The Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 5–June 16, 2019

met genji

The first major loan exhibition in North America to focus on the artistic tradition inspired by Japan's most celebrated work of literature, The Tale of Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting in the early eleventh-century imperial court, and often referred to as the world's first psychological novel, the tale recounts the life of the "shining prince" Genji and introduces some of the most iconic female characters in the history of Japanese literature. Covering the period from the eleventh century to the present, the exhibition features more than 120 works, including paintings, calligraphy, silk robes, lacquer wedding set items, a palanquin for the shogun's bride, and popular art such as ukiyo-e prints and modern manga. Highlights include two National Treasures and several works recognized as Important Cultural Properties never before exhibited outside Japan. Among these are rare works from Ishiyamadera Temple—where, according to legend, Shikibu started writing the tale. Together they help illuminate Genji's female authorship and overlooked Buddhist aspects of the tale's reception.